Brooklyn Heights

Judge dismisses lawsuit vs. Pierhouse development in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Save The View Now: Appeal likely

September 22, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Brooklyn judge on Monday dismissed the case against the Pierhouse hotel/condo development in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Eagle photo by Kevin Jones
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A Brooklyn judge on Monday dismissed the case against the Pierhouse hotel/condo development in Brooklyn Bridge Park, deeply disappointing advocates who claimed the park misled the public about the height of the project.

The Pierhouse, near Pier 1 in the park, partially disrupts the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, angering preservationists who had negotiated a lower height limit for the development.

This is the second time that the group Save The View Now (STVN) lost their fight in court against the height of the Pierhouse. Earlier this year, the community group had sued Brooklyn Bridge Park, the state, city and developers Toll Brothers and Starwood Capital Group, saying the structure is taller than agreed to in negotiations.

After their initial loss, the group returned to court in August with newly-obtained copies of leases showing “massive” bulkheads. The discovery of the leases reset the statute of limitations, they argued.

During the latest hearing, the park’s attorneys mocked the idea that the leases should be considered new evidence, and maintained that STVN simply did not exercise due diligence.

State Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Knipel agreed, writing in his decision that STVN failed to make the case that the “newly discovered” leases reset the clock. Justice Knipel is the administrative judge for civil matters.

“Indeed, plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate any connection between the provision of these leases and the expiration of the statute of limitations, as determined in the prior decision and order of this court,” he wrote.

The statute of limitations for Article 78 proceedings, which cover challenges to government actions, is four months. The timer starts to run “from the date a claimant was ‘aggrieved’ by the governmental action.”

Justice Knipel also threw out the group’s argument that the hotel’s bulkheads were “impermissively massive” because the expiration of the statute of limitations “has rendered this dispute academic.”

Steven Guterman, founder of STVN, said in a statement, “We are deeply disheartened and shocked to receive Judge Knipel’s 2 1/2 page decision ruling in favor of the defendants and dismissing our case. The decision is completely devoid of any explanation about how he came to his conclusion. We struggle deeply with why such a short ruling with no logic or analysis required seven weeks to write.”

Guterman said the group would be conferring with its legal advisors over the next few days to determine their next steps, which will likely include an appeal. 

He added, “If we allow this ruling to stand, it means that government entities are free to hide and mislead the public and do whatever they deem in their discretion, with no accountability or recourse to the public.”

Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) from the Pierhouse and other park developments will be directed towards park maintenance rather than the general city budget.

“We’re gratified that the court once again agrees that the Pier 1 development can proceed,” Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer said in a statement.

“Since Brooklyn Bridge Park’s inception in 2002, its funding plan has been straightforward: revenue from development sites within the project’s footprint supports the park’s long-term maintenance and operations,” she added. “Without those sites, there would be no Brooklyn Bridge Park. Our ability to finish the Pier 1 project moves us closer to completing the transformation from derelict waterfront to vibrant open space enjoyed by millions.”

In a joint statement, Toll Brothers and Starwood Capital Group said, “We are pleased that Judge Knipel has dismissed the case against Pierhouse.  We are proud to play a part in the historic development of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and we look forward to the grand opening of Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in the spring of 2016.”

The Pierhouse height limits were negotiated by the Brooklyn Heights Association and preservationist Otis Pearsall, among others, in 2005.


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